The perfect city bike would be comfy and safe to ride, and it would look sharp. Bonus points if it’s super-low-maintenance and doesn’t require you to constantly fiddle with the chain and the shifters.
Such bikes exist, but not if you’re on a budget. Bikes quickly get pricey once you start adding features that make them lighter, safer, and less fussy.
But I’ve got some good news: I think I’ve found the ideal city bike. The Priority Continuum Onyx offers all the features you want in an urban commuter, from disc brakes and fenders to a no-maintenance drivetrain, and the company brings it in at just under $1,000.
OK, $1,000 is still pretty steep, but you get a bevy of advanced features for your money. Priority offers so many city-friendly upgrades, in fact, that the price ends up being a real bargain.
The Continuum sports disc brakes, which provide greater stopping power than traditional caliper brakes—especially in the rain. You also get a Gates carbon belt instead of a chain. A belt drive offers greater durability and less mess, too. No need to worry about rolling in to work with a grease splotch on the cuff of your Levis.
But the thing that really stands out is the NuVinci Nfinity N330 hub. Within that metal shell at the center of the back wheel lies a CVT, or a continuously variable transmission. There are no discrete gears in a CVT, just a steady and smooth transition from the slowest, least-efficient setting to the fastest, most efficient. It’s a lot like the transmission that Subaru, Nissan, and others put in their cars. Now you can get one in your bike too.
To shift, just twist the grip-shifter on the handlebar and watch the little orange guy on the display next to your wrist. When he’s on the flats, you’re in high gear. When he’s struggling uphill, you’re in low gear. But it’s important to note you won’t find any “gears” in NuVinci’s CVT. If you want to compare the N330 to a traditional drivetrain, it gives you about the same gearing range as an eight-speed bike.
CVT hubs are starting to show up in other city bikes and in bike-share fleets in San Francisco and New York. Their reliability and bomb-proof construction make them a good match for fleet bikes, which take no end of abuse. Imagine how much trauma those bike-share hubs endure and you see the appeal of having one on your bike.
Roll With It
Put all of these great components—disc brakes, belt drive, the NuVinci hub—together and you’re typically looking at a bike closer to $2,000. But Priority keeps the Continuum Onyx relatively affordable by sourcing inexpensive but decent parts from Asia and selling directly to consumers online. Skipping the bike shop means you assemble your ride yourself, but Priority includes tools and instructions in the box. I found it no harder than wrangling a piece of Swedish flat-pack furniture. It took me 30 minutes to assemble the bike Priority sent me.
The Continuum Onyx is Priority’s top-of-the-line bike. The New York company also makes leisure models that cost between $400 and $800, but the Continuum Onyx is the one best suited to daily commuting. It includes fenders, the super-reflective decals and tires light up like Roman candles in in traffic, and the headlight draws power from a Dynohub that generates electricity when the front wheel spins.
It’s nice to see quality city bikes getting cheaper even as they get better. It means there are more bike commuters on the roads, for one. More important, it makes people think of cycling not as something you do only on weekends but rather something you can do every day.